Gertrude Stein (Reaktion Books - Critical Lives)
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“You are, of course, never yourself,” wrote Gertrude Stein (1874–1946) in Everybody’s Autobiography. Modernist icon Stein wrote many pseudo-autobiographies, including the well-known story of her lover, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas; but in Lucy Daniel’s Gertrude Stein the pen is turned directly on Stein, revealing the many selves that composed her inspiring and captivating life.
Though American-born, Stein has been celebrated in many incarnations as the embodiment of French bohemia; she was a patron of modern art and writing, a gay icon, the coiner of the term “Lost Generation,” and the hostess of one of the most famous artistic salons. Welcomed into Stein’s art-covered living room were the likes of Picasso, Matisse, Hemingway, and Pound. But—perhaps because of the celebrated names who made up her social circle—Stein has remained one of the most recognizable and yet least-known of the twentieth-century’s major literary figures, despite her immense and varied body of work. With detailed reference to her writings, Stein’s own collected anecdotes, and even the many portraits painted of her, Lucy Daniel discusses how the legend of Gertrude Stein was created, both by herself and her admirers, and gives much-needed attention to the continuing significance and influence of Stein’s literary works.
A fresh and readable biography of one of the major Modernist writers, Gertrude Stein will appeal to a wide audience interested in Stein’s contributions to avant-garde writing, and twentieth century art and literature in general.
a polymorphous sexuality as the basis of character. Perhaps in response to her feelings about her own sexuality at this time, she was, like so many scientists, pseudo-scientists, and novelists of her era, querying to what extent such binary oppositions as male and female, masculine and feminine, are useful, or even possible. Her taxonomic approach to character was also strengthened by her other major area of study at Radcliffe: zoology. At the end of her time at Radcliffe, Gertrude was preparing
contradictions, truisms, repetition and long, long, punctuationless sentences. In the final section no names or references to people are given; they are just referred to as ‘some’, ‘any’ or a ‘kind’. While use of the pronoun ‘one’ rather than ‘she’ or ‘he’ was a strategy that allowed Stein to be drastically ambiguous about the gender of her characters, she was also toning down her truths until they become so mundane as to be worthy of the title of absolute certainties. Also they are so mundane
together for another 36 years, until Stein’s death. After that, Toklas devoted the rest of her life to polishing the public memory of Stein. Mabel Dodge, the socialite, memoirist and early rival for Gertrude’s affections, called Alice a ‘hand-maiden’,2 but she was far more than that, and formidable. For Stein, Toklas was both an exotic and a familiar presence. In San Francisco Toklas had met, somewhat incongruously, Jack London, and been a sometime frequenter of the city’s ‘Bohemian Club’. She
Lying in a conundrum, lying so makes the springs restless, lying so is a reduction, not lying so is arrangeable. Releasing the oldest auction that is the pleasing same still renewing. 106 Giving it away. Not giving it away, is there any difference. Giving it away. Not giving it away. Almost very likely there is no seduction, almost very likely there is no stream, certainly very likely the height is penetrated, certainly certainly the target is cleaned. Come to sit, come to refuse, come to
French she had ever published. In a piece called ‘I feel a really anxious moment coming’ she wrote about X-rays.54 New technologies had entered her line of consciousness. In the mid-1920s she turned to America again as subject matter, and became preoccupied again with the idea of a novel, which she had veered from in the previous decade. Examples of her later novels range from Lucy Church Amiably (a ‘pastoral’ novel) to ‘a short novel’. What is more, she began for the first time to explain